CWRU Links

COTNER, MERCEDES R.

COTNER, MERCEDES R. (3 March 1905 - 20 Nov. 1998) was the clerk of Cleveland City Council, for more than twenty-five years and was the first woman to ever fill this position. She also was the first woman to be a Democratic candidate for Mayor in Cleveland. Cotner was born in Cleveland to Caroline E. (Auer) and John S. Trapp, a jeweler. She grew up in Ohio City and was trained in stenography and bookkeeping at the old St. Mary Commercial High School. In 1918, she took her first and only job outside City Council at Harrington Electric, earning $12.50 a week. She married George Cotner in 1927 and worked at Harrington until their first son was born three years later.

Both Cotner and her husband attended political meetings and rallies. It soon became apparent that she would be a rising star. She became a ward committee member and was later elected as ward leader. She was known as the last of the great ward leaders, someone who could deliver her ward. Cotner was first appointed to a council vacancy, but later was elected to the position several times. She became clerk in 1963 after she provided the key vote for James V. Stanton to oust Jack Russell. In 1973, when James M. Carney withdrew from the mayor's race against incumbent Ralph J. Perk eleven days before the election, the Democratic Party drafted Cotner. Although she lost by a margin of 2-1, Cotner described it as a reasonable showing given the circumstances. In spite of losing the election, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Timothy Hagan maintained that she was the second most powerful person in the city during George Forbes' tenure as council president. She was often the bridge between conflicting factions on the council. Her support was essential to many political candidates' careers and her good reputation helped her son Timothy later get elected as Juvenile Court Judge.

Mercedes and George Cotner had two children, Gerald and Timothy G. Cotner died in Lakewood Hospital and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.